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Edward Ernest Tate, (Ch) J 9755, Able Seaman

Updated: Oct 9, 2023


Edward joined the Royal Navy for twelve years service, leaving his butcher occupation; recorded as 5’7” tall aged eighteen, with brown hair, blue grey eyes, a dark complexion and date of birth of 22nd April 1894 in Paddington, London. He also had a small scar on the left side of his groin.


HMS IMPREGNABLE - 14/09/1910 - 09/06/1911, training as a Boy 2nd Class, rising to Boy 1st Class on 05/05/1911 Edward was recorded on the Boys Training Ship in Devonport during the 1911 census.

HMS ESSEX - 10/06/1911 - 16/09/1911

HMS PEMBROKE I - 17/09/1911 - 26/10/1911

HMS BACCHANTE - 27/10/1911 - 14/03/1912

HMS PEMBROKE I - 15/03/1912 - 29/03/1912

HMS HALCYON - 30/03/1912 - 15/07/1913, rising to Ordinary Seaman on 22/04/1912 and Able Seaman on 20/02/1913

HMS PEMBROKE I - 16/07/1913 - 30/03/1914

HMS VANGUARD - 31/03/1914 - 09/07/1917, Edward was working towards raising his rank to Petty Officer and married Lena Blake while on leave in April 1916 in Surrey. On November 8th 1916 the couple welcomed their daughter Margaret Lucy Anne into the world and baptised her on 13th December 1916 in the parish of St Mary’s Sunbury on Thames, Middlesex. He served aboard the dreadnought during the Battle of Jutland and also wrote an account of the action, along with his thoughts after the sea battle (below).


The Action (transcribed as written)


Imagine in your mind's eye a late October afternoon with a low lying mist with a red sun in the background as a setting to one of the greatest events in history. When you have done so you will have an idea of what the afternoon of May 31st 1916 was like, with a sea slightly ruffled, where the great Fleets met.

It was in the early past of the afternoon that the interesting information came through that our five battlecruisers and fast battleships were engaging the enemy who was being assisted by his Zeppelins whilst the action was being fought. With the battlecruisers and fast battleships the boom of the great guns could be heard distinctly, but it was not for some time when the afternoon was well spent that the flashes of the guns could be distinctly seen.


By the fall of shot from our battlecruisers who were at this time disposed on our starboard bow it would appear that they were engaging that part of the enemy ahead of them. The firing was terrific and it was later that we learned to what good effect our battlecruisers and fast battleships had fired. The enemy suffered very severe punishment indeed. The low visibility during all the time the action was fought prevented a good view being obtained of the enemy ships though very faintly the outline of a ship could be distinguished. I am now referring to the time when the main body of our fleet was fast approaching the enemy. The enemy fought at an advantage having the sun behind them and one almost eternal mist associated with the North Sea acted as it were a friend, but in spite of all the difficulty with which our fleet were confronted, the enemy received our salvoes in frequent succession although the enemies ships at times could hardly be distinguished. The position of the ships was revealed by the tongues of flame that leapt from his guns from time to time. It was when the main body was steaming to join hands that we perceived on our port bow the ill fated “Invincible” with bow and stern projecting above the restless waves and it was at this unity that the engagement could be called a general one.


It is very difficult to give an accurate impression of the acne as presented at the moment. Our Fleet being commanded with a masterly hand and skill very soon revealed to the enemy who was endeavouring to escape as fast as ever he could go and in doing so he was greatly assisted by that low lying mist.

It all can only be attributed to the atmospheric conditions that prevailed. The course of the enemy was continually being altered and it was not until after the engagement became general that a German battle cruiser the “Derfflinger” hauled out of the line having received a marking wound from which there was no hope of recovery. At much about the same time a cruiser hauled out of the line and stopped and it was not long before she was no more. The time was speeding on and it was evening , it was about the same time that the enemy cruisers hauled out of the line that our own cruisers coming up from the rear attacked the enemy with a terrace fire which was returned here and there as the engagement proceeded. Violent explosions were heard and it would be indeed difficult to attempt to describe what the sound was like.


It was now that an amazing thing happened and that was that an enemy destroyer apparently cut off from her consort, rushed at full speed between our lines attempting to escape and she was ably being dealt with by our destroyers and she was very well soon passed out of the encounter. The very daring of such a feat could hardly be appreciated by those who read this, who are not able to grip its meaning which cannot here be made more clear.

Five of these destroyers endeavoured to form a screen for the German battlecruisers and by their smoke, hid for a moment, the great ships accurate aim was taken and after the smoke from the guns had cleared they had disappeared into the depths, having gone to their doom as so many more of their kind have done. As the night wore on a running fight continued while the enemy were retreating to his own ports, preferring that much more than a fight with the British Fleet. The enemy can attribute his good fortune if one may use that term to the mist which prevailed.


If we had been given the opportunity of a prolonged fight instead of that running fight, victory would have assured us. It was noticed that the great battle cruisers of the enemy which had to haul front the line were not again sight[ed] when we passed that way. As has been made clear by the press, the fight took place off Jutland between Horns Reff and the Skager Rak [Skagerrak]. The night has now spread its sombre mantle over all and the firing to some extent ceased when the lull was broken by a German light cruiser apparently of the latest type to run through the lines to safety, she was seen searchlights flashed out o’er the deep. Guns were fired and she was seen to be on fire, the configuration provided sufficient target, lights were extinguished and firing continued until the battered remnants of a once fine ship were gone forever. To those who are inclined to view [a] hastily result of a great action and to consider the enemy somewhat victorious - it would be to some to have it explained, if they were victorious why [did] they run away?

To those who know, it is a great British victory and that it will take the enemy a long time to rally that portion which has remained afloat. His losses are out of all proportion to our own and I am optimistic enough still to think we have not yet heard the full extent of the Kaiser’s losses.

Our destroyers astern were in constant action conflict with the enemy throughout the night, the flash of the guns lighting up the sky for miles and it was esteemed in one action the enemy lost 6 destroyers. The fighting continued ling but lulls were noticed, but when dawn broke the enemy had vanished like his dreams. Perhaps this feeble attempt will give you some idea of what took place on that memorable day Wednesday 31st May 1916. This is one more link which has been forged in the great chain of victory that ere long shall be given to the Allies, the chain that will bend and break forever, the vice of the multitudes craving for the liberty and all that makes life dear to us, shall be avenged, the slaughter of the innocent cry aloud for vengeance and that great day is coming soon, one hour of liberty is worth a whole eternity in bondage.

It would be well to add to five you a very correct idea of what spirit prevailed whilst going into action. Songs could be heard between the reports of the guns in particular “Tipperary”, its rollicking lit having a peculiar fascination for servicemen. Humour, there is much. One phrase I can particularly recall that was “here comes another guest” to which was made reply “what guest”, a further reply from the battle cruiser referring of course to the ship in the enemy line who shortly afterward met her fate. Shells were flying around, dripping around the ship and one most amusing fellow went w[h]izzing between the funnels with a noise similar to that of a train leaving a tunnel until finally it picked up soundings in the ocean, beyond as it did so, up went a high column of water.

Then “The Day” arrived one noticed the Germans far preferred the safety of their home ports behind their minefields than take this stand.

To be able to say I witnessed the greatest naval battle in all history is one to be proud although to you I may have jot it down very imperfect, Wednesday 31st May 1916 shall rank very high in the Great War and help to bring a victorious close.


Our spirit remains and all is well.


Following Edward’s death his widow and daughter received his pension along with his Star, Victory and British war medals. His body never found, he is remembered locally on the war memorial in Sunbury on Thames and on the Chatham Naval Memorial.


#310 - 736/843


Sources:

1911 England Census

Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services, 1848-1939 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services; Class: ADM 188; Piece: 666

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1916-2005 General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 2a; Page: 985

London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1906 London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; London Church of England Parish Registers

British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 National Archives of the UK; Kew, Surrey, England; Admiralty: Naval Casualties, Indexes, War Grave Rolls and Statistics Book, First World War.; Class: ADM 242; Piece: 010 (1914 - 1919)

CWGC register

Navy Lists, 1888-1970 National Library of Scotland; Edinburgh, Scotland; British Navy Lists. National Library of Scotland, 2020.

Royal Navy and Royal Marine War Graves Roll, 1914-1919 TNA Series: ADM 242/10; Scan Number: 0640

World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923 Western Front Association; London, England; WWI Pension Record Cards and Ledgers; Reference: 178/0908/TAR-TAU

Naval Medal and Award Rolls, 1793-1972 Class: ADM 171; Piece: 116

Photo and letter courtesy of Andrew Wilkie


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